Thursday, February 16, 2012

I LOVE Mac & Cheese

Recipe Under Review:  Too-EZ Mac & Cheese from
First impression: please taste good, please taste good!
Verdict: Almost perfect mac & cheese swap!

I'm going to have to preface this post with the fact that I absolutely adore macaroni and cheese, and could easily eat it for every meal of every day.  Obviously this is a problem if you are trying to be healthier since it's traditionally white pasta and full-fat cheesy sauce.  I'm constantly trying to figure out how to keep my love of mac and cheese but not destroy my body at the same time and it's a much harder process than one might think.

I've known about this recipe for quite some time.  I found it one day and filed it as a "must try ASAP" and then just kept putting it off (cauliflower scares me!) until a friend of mine mentioned that she was going to try to make it.  Then I decided a vegetable shouldn't scare me enough to stop me from my love of cheesy goodness, so I scrounged up the ingredients the best I could and had at it!

Disclaimer: I did NOT do a good job getting the right ingredients, oopsie!

First step: boil water and pasta.  I used Ronzoni Smart Taste Elbows instead of whole wheat blend rotini...
If you haven't tried this pasta yet and are still stuck on white pasta, I HIGHLY recommend it.  I've converted my entire family to it, it's packed with good for you things and you seriously can not tell the difference!  
So boiling water and putting in pasta is all good and fine, but elbows do not take that long to cook.  This is the first snag in the recipe.  You have to microwave the cauliflower and cheese for 12-14 minutes, but the recipe says "while pasta cooks" to do it.  I ended up waiting around for an extra 8 or so minutes for the microwave to finish.  I would definitely put the water on, then immediately put the veggies in the microwave and get them started.  
I was surprised at how much pasta this recipe really called for, a ton!
 So back to the veggies, I definitely hit a snag here.  So you can find big family size bags of this stuff, but I could not.  So I ended up getting ...
Three 10 oz boxes!  Which, according to serving sizes, is only 4.5 cups (30 oz) even though the recipe says 24oz is about 6 cups... curious.

Anywho, I microwaved these bad boys anyway, thinking nothing would go wrong.  Then there was cheese sauce everywhere.  Fantastic.

It looks gross, I know.  It's also quite a pain to transfer all the contents of the packets into the pasta bowl without getting messy after this fact.
 Moral of the story: FIND THAT 24 OZ BAG!

I forgot to stir my laughing cow before transferring, but it stirred in okay anyway.  
 Done!  Seriously simple stuff, she was not kidding there!

Far away and close up.  See the chunks of cauliflower?  Yeah, me too.  A little bit scary.  I think it might be worth it to try to mash up the cauliflower into smaller pieces before adding pasta (but I also used tiny little elbow noodles when I wasn't suppose to, totally my fault I'm sure)
 Time to eat!

One serving in a normal sized bowl, pretty decent right?  Oh look, more giant cauliflower.
So I had this for lunch with a side spinach/strawberry/ham (AKA food that needs to be eaten in my fridge) salad.  Definitely a struggle to finish this bowl!  I was not expecting that, so a great serving size overall.  I think it would be fine by itself for lunch, maybe with an apple or banana or something small like that.  For dinner I think pairing it with a salad makes a great well-balanced meal.

How does it taste?  Great!  I was pleasantly surprised.  It's not overly mac-and-cheesy but it will definitely do in a pinch!  I still don't think I like cauliflower, it just seems so out of place in this dish.  I do think if it was smaller or if I microwaved it a minute or two longer it might be better though, because if it wasn't so firm I don't think it would have been so obvious!

THE DOWNSIDE:  I went to log this recipe on my calorie counter, it was about 100 calories higher than HG suggests.  I'm sure some of it had to do with my substitutions, but that seems a little much to be off by.  A little disappointing but still completely reasonable stats I think!  This recipe will definitely be filed away for future use though!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Disappointing Chicken Parm Meal

Product Under Review: Lean Cuisine Chicken Parmesean
More Info:
First Impression: doesn't look overly appetizing
Verdict: I won't be buying this again :(

As a relatively busy college student, I'm always looking for delicious, filling frozen meals with decent stats.  As chicken parm is one of my favorite meals, I was hoping to have good things to say about this frozen dinner.

Portion size: Definitely not anything impressive, but not too little either.  Good amount of pasta, but the chicken piece is kind of thin and sad.  Easily fixed by preparing some  frozen veggies on the side (which i should have done, because I don't think I'm going to be full for very long)
Taste: This is where I was really disappointed.  The pasta came out mushy and just has kind of a "blah" taste.  The chicken is a very processed breaded patty that I find very disappointing after having other frozen meals.  
Nutritional Value: Not terrible for a meal, but whole wheat pasta and grilled chicken probably could have given this meal a lot more bang for it's buck!
Appearance: Red and blah.  There are no other colors in this dish!  Also where is the cheese on my chicken?  I had to top it all with grated parm to make it look edible.

This picture probably makes the portion size look bigger, sorry!
Overall: Frozen chicken breasts, low fat cheese, marinara sauce, and whole wheat pasta are all staples in my kitchen.  I think I'll take the extra 10 minutes and prepare my own chicken parm dinner next time.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

De-Pudged Pigs in Blankets

Recipe under review: De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket from Hungry Girl's HG Happy Hour
More info:
First impression: these look adorable, do they taste as good?
Verdict: great to make for gatherings!

Another super easy recipe from Hungry Girl!  IN!  With the Superbowl being a breeding ground for so-delicious-so-bad-for-you foods I wanted to make sure I could bring something to the table that everyone would still like, but would also let me have a healthy option to snack on that would fill me up (I love you raw veggie tray, but you just aren't always enough!)

My roomie and I attempted this together, just because we like to cook together, not because this was in any way complicated enough to need two people.  So easy, cut up hot dogs, cut up crescent dough, assemble and bake.  The major problem we had was how to cut the dough into four smaller triangles...

Once we figured out that little snag, it became much easier.  We also experimented with some Laughing Cow cheese wedges inside to make cheesy piggies.  When taste-tested, I couldn't really tell a difference between the cheesed pigs and the plain pigs.

Wrapped and ready to get into the oven!

Not quite as cute as HG's pic, but definitely came out nice and golden!

The downside: Hebrew National franks come in packs of 7, crescent rolls come in packs of 8.  We made a few batches for the shindig, so we had extra rolls to bake up, thankfully, they have the same cook time as the pigs so you can just stick them right in as well!

Overall these were a tasty treat that left us feeling satisfied on game day.  They were quick and easy to make.  For me, they were tasty and delicious, but not so amazing that I couldn't stop myself at the recommended four pig serving size.  I viewed this as a plus, because mindless football-eating can be hard to control sometimes!